Saturday, 19 August 2017

Dartford Harriers Open - August 2017

My first two 3,000m races ended with less than a second difference between my two results...

2015: SCVAC Kent Divisions meet 1 (Norman Park, Bromley) - 11.26.80
2016: Dartford Harriers Open (Central Park Athletics, Dartford) - 11.27.45

In August 2017 the opportunity to race the distance again came up, so I got myself over to my running club and entered on the evening for £5. That's quite a reasonable price considering the events are all professionally timed and eligible for inclusion on the Power of 10 website.

trackside details

3,000m is seven-and-a-half laps of a standard 400m running track and despite it being a little more intense than a 5k, I actually really enjoy racing the distance. On the subject of racing, there wasn't really much racing going on from my point of view because the field was mostly made up of youngsters with much more speed in their legs.

Over the last couple of years, I've done more training on the track and one of the big things I've been hoping to improve is my track pacing - it's way too easy to get dragged out with the whippets on the first lap and suffer for the remaining laps.

I managed to test out my track pacing a few days before this race during the Run Dartford 2,000m race and that turned out alright (blog here). I put my 2,000m time into a pace calculator and it threw out a suggestion that I would run somewhere between 11.30 and 11.40 over 3,000m, a bit slower than my previous efforts.

First things first - I almost missed the start because I was chatting away before realising that the time was 19.07 and I thought the race started at 19.15. In fact the race was scheduled to start at 19.10 and I just made it to the start line with 30 seconds to spare!

As expected, the majority of the field were faster than me and they headed off out in front while I settled into a nice spot behind another runner further back. The field spread out pretty quickly and after an ever-so-slightly-too-fast opening 400m (1.28) I settled into a nice rhythm.

By the time we hit the 1000m point, I felt it was time to move in front of my companion so I did so on the back straight. From here on in it was a case of ticking off the laps while still maintaining the same pace.

Before I knew it there were two laps (800m) left to go. The first of these was probably the toughest of the whole race, but once it was over the mental boost of being on the final lap kicked in and after reviewing my GPS data it looks like I ran a fairly even-paced race.

With the race over and the results in, I found to my great amusement that I had run 11.27.62 which was still inside the same 1 second window that I had run my previous two 3,000m races. It was also quite satisfying to beat the predicted time from the online race time predictor.

Position: 14/16
Official Time: 11.27.62

1km 3.50 (3.50)
2km 3.44 (7.36)
3km 3.51 (11.27)

Power of 10: DHAC Open 3,000m (results should appear here once processed)
Results from all the evening's events: DHAC Open full results spreadsheet
GPS data: DHAC Open 3,000m on Strava

Monday, 14 August 2017

Hoblingwell parkrun

In the London Borough of Bromley you will find an area called St. Paul's Cray just to the north of Orpington. It takes it's name from the 11th century church St. Paulinus Cray which is dedicated to an early Christian missionary, Paulinus. The Cray part comes from the river which flows along the eastern border of the village and lends its name to at least three other places, collectively known as 'The Crays' along its banks in the Cray Valley.

On the western side of St. Paul's Cray you will find a wooded area which contains a holy, or perhaps sacred or healing spring, more commonly referred to as a well. Legend has it that this well was home to some kind of elemental creature, perhaps a sprite, an elf or a goblin. In Old English, a creature of this kind was known as a 'hob', so the well became 'Hob's Well' or 'The Hobling Well' and over the years this has evolved into Hoblingwell.


Hoblingwell Woods still exist but smaller in size than in earlier times. Sometime after 1949 the eastern half was landscaped into an open grassed area and is now called Hoblingwell Woods Recreation Ground. It is marked with rugby and football pitches and also features a playground and a multi-use court. In the centre of the recreation ground is the Orpington Rugby Football Club clubhouse and car park.

In August 2009 a proposal was put forward to use the recreation ground as a temporary landfill site, but due to the local resident's objections this was rejected. It did however lead to the creation of the Friends of Hoblingwell - the group's main aims are to help combat the anti-social behaviour that is prevalent in the area and to bring the community back into the park and woods through various community events.

football / rugby fields (running photo: pinoy runner uk)

On 15 July 2017 Hoblingwell Recreation Ground became home to Hoblingwell parkrun which is a free, weekly, 5km running/walking event - perfect for bringing the community together for a spot of exercise every Saturday morning. The name has of course gone down well in the running community, where the irony of the 'hobling' part has not been missed.

I visited the venue on 12 August 2017 with my friend Richey to take part in event number 5. Upon arrival at the venue I parked in the free, on-site car park. If I had cycled I could have chained my bike to one of the small bicycle racks which are dotted around the edge of the car park. If travelling by train the closest station is St. Mary Cray which is just over a kilometre south of the venue. There are toilets located in the aforementioned rugby clubhouse.

rugby field / western section (running photo: pinoy runner uk)

Moving onto the run itself, it's a two-lapper but has an extra few bits on either side of the laps, which may seem a little convoluted at first glance, to help make up the full 5k distance. Underfoot the course is mostly grass but also features a small amount of tarmac and a short dirt trail path. The profile of the course is generally flat-ish but there are some gentle undulations thrown in. If the grass is dry then road shoes are fine here, however I have a suspicion that trail shoes could come in handy during the winter or if the grass is wet/slippery.

The start/finish area is located on the grass next to the car park and once the first-timer and main briefings have taken place the participants are sent on their way. The first section takes place over 1.5 anti-clockwise laps of the football field at the southern tip of the park. I was worried about getting this part wrong so was very pleased when I found myself running alongside Ralph, the event director, who was very encouraging throughout the run - thank you, Ralph.

inside the wooded area

The grass here was long and holding onto a lot of water and it didn't take long for my shoes to become soaked through (and I forgot to bring a change of socks). Just as the course reaches the first kilometre, the runners peel off and join the tarmac path which runs alongside the rugby pitches which are at a slightly lower elevation than the rest of the run.

Transferring back onto grass [link: video of this point by Pinoy Runner UK from the event I visited] the course soon reaches the beginning of the main 1 mile (1.6k) clockwise loop which is run twice. This firstly takes the runners up a short, sharp slope and around to the western side of the playground and clubhouse which is slightly wilder in appearance with long grasses and wildflowers. Following the flags, stanchions and cones along the grass, the course runs along the edge of Leesons Way until reaching the entrance to the woods.

back on the rugby pitches

Turning into the woods underfoot changes to tarmac for about 100 metres and a right-hand-turn takes the runners onto a gently meandering dirt trail path for another 200 metres. Sadly the section in the woods is over quite quickly and the runners emerge back into the western part of the recreation ground. After running along a cambered section along the northern border, the route drops back down to the rugby pitches where the course continues all the way to the north east corner of the park.

A brief section on the pavement adjacent to the park takes the runners southwards before turning back onto the grass and along the strip of grass between the rugby pitches. At the far end the 1 mile loop is complete. A second, identical loop is then run and when the runners return to this point they turn to the left and retrace their steps back towards the start/finish area - back along the tarmac path and then all the way back around the football pitch loop, but in the opposite direction.

more rugby fields

Once over the finish line, the runners take a finishing token and have it scanned along with their personal barcode. When everyone has finished, the participants and volunteers move over to the rugby clubhouse for some post-run refreshments and chat. When I visited, the results were processed and online shortly after the run. For the record there were 66 participants at event 5.

I recorded the GPS data using my Garmin and you can view the course in further detail on my Strava account, here - Hoblingwell parkrun #5. I have also used the Relive app to create a video of the course and you can watch that on YouTube, here - Relive: Hoblingwell parkrun. Overall, once you have run the course it all makes sense and not as complicated as it might appear upon first glance. The combination of longish grass and the undulations made it feel harder than it looks on paper.

Finally, a big thanks goes out to the wonderful team of volunteers.


Related blog posts:

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Run>Dartford: Central Park Athletics 2,000m Track Race 2017

The Run Dartford race series started in 2016 and I ran every race in that first season resulting in a fourth place trophy for me. When 2017's series came around, I was having some trouble with my ankle and decided to give the series a miss.

However, there was one new race added to the series and I really fancied giving it a go. So. I entered the final race of the series which was a 2,000 metre track race at my running club's home track, Central Park Athletics, in Central Park, Dartford.

start [photo: dani]

If you haven't read all about the series, please have a quick read of my Run Dartford information page or visit the official Run Dartford webpage and read about it there.

I'd never run a 2,000 metre track race before - the closest I had done would have been a 1 mile track time trial, or 1,500m or 3.000m races. The exact pacing was going to be just a fraction off 1 mile pace.

I had run just under 6 minutes for a 1 mile race a couple of months earlier so I knew that I'd be able to easily run a sub-8 time and had an idea that 7.30 would be a good target with anything under 7.30 being an exceptional performance for me at my current fitness level.

end of lap 1 [photo: alan]

With that in mind, I went over to the track a few days before the race to practice my pacing - my main concern being that I'd be dragged along too quickly over the first lap. The track session went well and I ended up doing 10x407 with each lap coming in at somewhere around the 90 second mark - just the right pace I need to run during the race.

On the night of the race I paid the £5 entry fee and had a nice warm-up run around the track with my friend Adam. It was mostly an easy pace, but we did include 200m at race pace followed by a few strides to get the legs in the zone for the faster pace required for the race.

end of lap 2 [photo: alan]

The runners were divided into groups of similar ability and each group had their own heat - there were four heats in total. As I usually end up towards the front end of the field, I was put in the fastest group. This was good, but did increase the risk of being dragged along too fast during the opening lap.

So I hatched an opening lap pacing plan and before I knew it, the race briefing was happening and I was ushered over to the start line. The 2,000m race takes place over 5 laps of a standard 400m running track and with the race under way, I immediately placed myself at the back of the pack (that was the plan) as we headed around the opening bend.

starting lap 3 [photo: dani]

The pace felt solid but comfortable during this lap and I moved up one position just after the 200 metre point. The fastest runners had already headed off into the distance, but I was now in a pack of 7 runners.

I spent the second and third laps in the pack, but on the outer edge running in lanes 2 or 3 which meant I was running further than I needed to (maybe 7-10 metres or so extra over each lap). For the record, I went through the halfway point (2.5 laps / 1,000m) in 3.45 which was perfectly on pace for the time I hoped I would run.

end of lap 4 [photo: alan]

The pace of the pack started to slow during the third lap, so towards the end of lap 3 I knew I had to get myself onto the inside lane and have my own space. So I moved to the front of the pack and got myself over. Behind me, the pack then started to fragment.

Lap 4 went by pretty well and before I knew it I was on the final lap and slowly gaining on the runner in front. The final 100 metres saw me moving closer to the runner in front, but at the same time found myself being overtaken by the runner behind me. I pushed as hard as I could and then it was over.

end of the final lap [photo: alan]

Individual and cumulative (x.xx) lap times:
Lap 1: 1.28 (1.28)
Lap 2: 1.30 (2.58)
Lap 3: 1.35 (4.33)
Lap 4: 1.30 (6.03)
Lap 5: 1.26 (7.29)

Looking at my lap split times I was pleased with the way my pacing had gone, the only blip was that third lap, but overall I finished in 7.29 which, being sub-7.30, was a fantastic result for me. The official results were published the day after and my time was confirmed.

the series medal (completion of four races required to qualify for one)

Run Dartford 2017 series race results webpage
Run Dartford 2017 series consolidated results PDF
My GPS data

My stats:
Official time: 7.29
Age grading: 66.74%
Position (by time): 11/53
Position (by age grading): 19/53

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Penrhyn parkrun

This was the second parkrun I had visited during our stay in Wales during the summer of 2017, the first being Conwy parkrun just seven days earlier. Our main reasons for being in Wales were to climb Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) and for me to run the Snowdonia Trail Half-Marathon (click the links for those blogs).

Our accommodation was only 2 miles away from Castell Penrhyn (Penrhyn Castle), and we had a fabulous view of it from the road outside our cottage. It sits atop a hill just outside the village of Llandygai which was developed by the 1st Baron Penrhyn of Llandygai as a model village for his estate workers.

the view from our cottage / gatehouse

On the day of the parkrun I had half-planned to jog to the venue, however my legs were still a little sore from the week's adventures, plus the main road doesn't have a pavement and I was a little nervous about running in the road with vehicles approaching at 60mph. I reluctantly used the car instead.

Upon arrival I entered the 45 acre estate grounds via the impressive Gatehouse and drove along the long meandering driveway as it passes through woodland. The estate is owned by The National Trust and appears on my list of National Trust parkrun Venues. The spacious car park is found at the end of the drive. The first set of toilets can be found at the far end of the car park with further toilets found in the castle itself.

castell penrhyn

There is usually an entrance fee to access the castle and grounds, but those attending parkrun can park and enter the grounds without charge. The nearest train station is Bangor which is about 3 miles away and there are local buses which will help you to complete your journey to Penrhyn Castle.

After climbing the twisty, meandering path from the car park, the striking Norman-esque castle came into view. It's worth pointing out that while Penrhyn is referred to as a castle, technically it isn't one at all. It is in fact a country house for which a license to crenellate (license to fortify) was granted in 1438.

to the start

The current building was designed by Thomas Hopper and built between 1822 and 1837 with only a couple of internal features from previous buildings being kept. Such was its status that it even had a visit from Queen Victoria in 1859 who slept on a custom-made one-ton slate bed.

Walking around to the front of the building with its grand multi-turreted architecture, you'll more than likely find some runners and volunteers mingling around. On the day I visited there was a film crew here filming 'Alfie's Army' where Welsh rugby player Gareth Thomas is training a group of 17-21 year olds to run the Cardiff Half-Marathon.

the start courtyard / archway

The 5k event that I was here to run, Penrhyn parkrun, first took place on 15 November 2014 and its attendance figures have grown from under a hundred to the current numbers which hover somewhere around 200 - it's also worth noting that the attendance figures seem to bounce around quite a bit. For example, the week I visited (event 135) there were 230 participants but a week earlier there were 304 and before that 205. I suspect the jump was down to extra runners in the local area for the aforementioned half-marathon.

The run itself takes place entirely within the castle grounds and is made up of two clockwise large laps (Cylch Mawr) followed by two clockwise small laps (Cylch Bach). Underfoot is a mixture of tarmac and gravelly farm track type paths - I used my road shoes, but in winter trail shoes might offer a little more traction when not on the tarmac.

part of the large lap

As 9am rolls around the runners make their way around to the courtyard on the western side of the building. Here the first-timers briefing and then the main run briefing take place. The start (Cychwun) is formed within the gate to the courtyard and its only about 4 people wide so the start is very congested while everyone filters through.

One thing you will not find in the courtyard are runners with dogs because they have a separate start line which filters into the main body or of runners as the route turns and passes the front of the castle. Also as you work your way around the course you will be treated not only to views of the castle from every angle, but also out to the Menai Straits and across towards the mountains of Snowdonia.

the course

The large lap is about 1.5km in length and goes via the east side of the castle. The general theme is downhill for the first 500 metres which then switches to about 800 metres of undulating / gentle climbing once past the walled garden. The remaining 200 metres are flat. The second large lap begins with the runners turning left upon reaching the main castle gate at the front of the building and again passing the east side of the castle.

With the two large laps complete, the runners take a right hand turn upon reaching the main castle gates and run along the west side of the castle for the remaining two small laps. These start out flat but have a steeper drop which meets the larger lap outside the walled garden. It is then followed by the same long incline back around to the end of the lap. The signs for the laps are only in Welsh so just remember Cylch Mawr is for the large lap and Cylch Bach for the small ones.

towards the end of each lap (large and small)

Whether you are at the front, the back or the middle of the pack you will encounter plenty of other runners/walkers as the multiple lap course means that lapping is inevitable. When I visited all other runners were considerate and passing worked out fine with no need to break my pace in order to filter through.

With the four laps complete, the finish (Gorffen) can be found within the main entrance archway at the front of the castle. It's the perfect end to a picturesque run, but do be careful as the surface underfoot changes to cobblestones as you cross the finish line. Barcode scanning took place at the end of the finish funnel inside the main courtyard.

part of the small lap / tail runner

The undulations get harder each lap and by the end you'll be glad that you can have a break from running! If you're going to stay for coffee, the coffee shop in the castle is open for parkrunners afterwards. I had to check out of my cottage by 10am so sadly didn't have time to stay. I did manage to have a quick peak in the walled garden, and would have loved to stay for longer.

If you were planning to make a day of your time here, you'd be able to wander around the grounds taking in the stunning views, various gardens including a Bog Garden, adventure playground and an outdoor gym.

gorffen / finish

If you wanted to go inside the castle you could explore the 'ostentatious cathedral-like interior' which was possible due to the former owner's wealth which came from ownership of the Penrhyn slate quarry - to this day the biggest in Britain, but once the largest in the entire world.

Inside you'll also find a vast art collection, Queen Victoria's slate bed, a collection of dolls and the Penrhyn Castle Rail Museum which features a number of locomotives which were used on the Penrhyn Slate Quarry narrow gauge railway as well as many other engines from around the country.

one of the views / details

The results were processed and I got my results text message later that morning. I had recorded the run using my Garmin and the GPS data can be viewed on my Strava profile, right here: Penrhyn parkrun 135. Also, you can view my #relive video of the course on YouTube, here: Penrhyn parkrun relive video.

The main Penrhyn parkrun course page describes the run as 'one of the most beautiful and picturesque runs of North Wales' and it's difficult to argue with that. The castle is a stunning sight from every angle, but to have views out to sea and of the mountains of Snowdonia on top of that makes this a real treat of a venue.

Related blog links:

Friday, 28 July 2017

Snowdonia Trail Half-Marathon 2017

For years I had promised my daughter that I'd take her to Wales to climb Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon), but it's one thing to say it and another to actually organise it. I needed to do something to help to make it happen, so I entered the Snowdonia Trail Half-Marathon which is hosted by Always Aim High. We booked a place to stay and that was that... we were going to Wales!

As you'd expect, the race features quite a bit of climbing, so during the early months of 2017 I started to work some hillier routes and races into my training. In February I ran the Valentines 10ish Mile Challenge and then in March I ran The Ridge 10k - both hilly courses and I was happy that the training was going well.


At the end of March I developed a pain in my right ankle which was quite intense at times, so I almost stopped running completely and largely switched cycling instead. This helped to avoid worsening the ankle pain, but it still lingered on through April, May and June.

July finally came around and although I had sprinkled some more running into my routine, it was nowhere near the volume I would have liked before running a half-marathon. I made the decision to drop down to the 10k option, but when I looked on the Always Aim High website, I saw that I'd missed the 30 day deadline for changing distance.

waiting to get going

I decided that I'd just have to crack on with the Half-Marathon. I removed all thoughts of a time goal from my mind and got myself in the right mindset to just enjoy being on the mountain and try to manage my balance between running and walking in order to keep the ankle happy. The new goal was to get around the course without setting my recovery back further.

We set off for Wales on the Friday before the race and I had a nice easy run around Conwy parkrun on the Saturday with my friend Adam who had also entered the Half-Marathon. Race day soon came around and I headed off to into Parc Cenedlaethol Eryri (Snowdonia National Park) with my wife, daughter and father-in-law. My wife had downloaded the official tracking app to track my progress.

the first two kilometres

The race village was based in Llanberis and we parked in one of the car parks off of the main road for £4 which covered the full day (parking can be up to twice the amount in the more popular car parks). I walked the 200 metres or so to the race village and picked up my race number with in-built timing chip and I also stocked up on energy bars as I was instructed to take 'as many as you like'. I also picked up the technical race t-shirt that I had ordered when I had signed up.

The village featured a few stalls, mostly centred around mountain running gear, selling trail shoes, waterproof clothing etc.  There was also a stall selling fresh coffee and snacks, a truck with hot food and some inflatables to keep the kids entertained. Then there were around 15 or so portable toilets plus a few urinals to speed up the process for the gents.

the first real mountain path (2 - 6km)

Being a mountain race, there were a few items of compulsory equipment for every runner; waterproof jacket (with hood), and waterproof trousers - both of these were required to have 'taped seams'. Energy bars, hat, gloves and a mobile phone were also mandatory. It was also advisable to carry your own water, but there were water stations on the course. I had all of my gear in my running backpack which was feeling a lot heavier than I was expecting.

In addition to the half-marathon and the 10k, there was also a marathon and this race started at 9am. That left a short while to revisit the toilets, say my farewells and then get in place to listen to the Half-Marathon safety briefing at 9.15am. The half-marathon was started at 9.30am and considering my plan for the race, I started quite near the back of the pack.

The weather forecast was for a bright, sunny day with barely any wind and this really was a bonus.

snowdon ranger path

The race itself started off by heading through the streets of Llanberis and eventually onto a narrower lane where the climbing started. I dropped down to a walk as the road got steeper because those around me that were running were not moving any faster anyway. The first water station was on this road and I grabbed a cup of water to keep the hydration levels topped up. The road wound its way around and eventually at the 2km point we went off-road.

The path was generally flat to start with and I got myself running again - with the path being a little congested and passing possible, but not always easy, I stuck to running at a nice, easy pace and enjoyed the stunning scenery that I found myself immersed in. On my right was Foel Goch (605m) and the path ran along its contour lines as it lead us through Bwlch Maesgwm (pass).

snowdon ranger path (6 to 9.3km)

The rocky, mountain path gave way to a spongy, grassy section for a short downhill section and then, at the 6km point, the course joined the Snowdon Ranger Path and we moved along the southern side of Moel Cynghorion (674m). The view to the south was simply stunning. I'd already eaten an energy bar by now and all along the route I had been switching between running and walking - largely dictated by the severity of the incline or the will of the masses. It was quite fitting that the wind howling way up on the mountain sounded just like a dragon.

At 8km into the race, the real climbing began and it's difficult to see how anyone could continue running at this stage of the race. It was a slow plod and my Garmin showed my pace generally hovering around the 20 minute per kilometre mark, but there were occasions where it dropped much slower. Llyn Ffinnon-y-Gwas (reservoir) glistened below as we passed along the southern side of Clogwyn-Du-Yr-Arduu (cliffs whose north face is said to offer the best climbing in Britain).

reaching the top / view of snowdon's summit (Yr Wyddfa)

The climbing continued with the gradient regularly between 20%-30% (sometimes steeper). I ate another energy bar and got some water from my bag here. Underfoot the path had been stony, but changed to large boulders used as steps as the zig-zagged its way up. Then the boulders gave way to a looser scree type of surface and then the course crossed the Snowdon Mountain Railway tracks.

One hour and fifty minutes into the race and I finally reached the point where the Snowdon Ranger Path meets the Llanberis Path - it's highest point of the course. My Garmin recorded the distance as 10.3km (almost halfway) and the elevation as 968m above sea level. The race does not go all the way to the summit (it's about another 500 metres along the path and over 100m higher), so I took a moment to admire it before continuing with the race.

llanberis path (10-11km)

The course now follows the Llanberis Path all the way down, and you might think that going down would be easier. It is not. The first few hundred metres had a slight camber to the left and as I ran over the loose slate fragments there was a constant pull to the left - it was really odd. The decline became steeper and the stones and slate that make up the path were hazardous with the risk of slipping pretty high.

There was a fantastic view across the Llanberis Pass towards the Glyderau (I climbed Tryfan, Yr Garn, Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr about ten years ago) from the 11.7km point which is where the Llanberis path goes underneath the railway line for the first time. After this the path switched from loose slate to large boulder stepping stones - these were no easier to negotiate and I came down quite heavy on my right foot causing a little pain in my ankle on more than one occasion.

view across to the glyders from the llanberis path

The path continued down at a gradient between 20%-38% (according to my Garmin) and the thought of twisting my ankle badly lead me to take these parts a little slower than I had imagined I would. The runners had really spread out and there were times where I couldn't see any other race participants. At about 13.5km I passed the Halfway House and received a few cheers from the hikers that were resting on their way to the summit.

The path generally got easier to run on the more I descended and I eventually caught up with another runner who informed me that he had already taken two tumbles on his way down the mountain. Every now and then there were some more sections of uneven rocks to negotiate and again I came down heavy on my ankle. Fortunately I got away with it again.

further down the llanberis path (11-16km)

The view to the left across the valley was just sublime - the Afon Arddu (river) was glistening in the sunshine and all that could be heard were the sounds of the passing steam trains and sheep bleating. As I neared the end of the Llanberis Path, the view to the right opened up and in the distance I could see the Dinorwic Slate Quarry which is where I would be heading shortly.

The end of the Llanberis Path was almost perfectly aligned with the 16km (10 mile) point of the course and my watch says I reached this point at around two hours and thirty-two minutes. With the uneven ground behind me for now and the smooth tarmac road still heading downhill, I quickly gained some speed and started flying past other runners.

tarmac path back to llanberis and the slate quarry steps (16-18km)

Into Llanberis, across the road and then through a bit of woodland behind the Royal Victoria Hotel, I ran just metres away from Dolbadarn Castle before popping out on the road that leads towards the previously mentioned slate quarry. At the end of the road I was directed into a small alley way (18km) which turned into a slate staircase which zig-zagged its way up the side of the quarry.

Given that I had been taking the race at a pace well below my ability, I was full of beans here and wanted to attack the steps, however I was stuck behind a long line of runners who had most-likely given everything they had already and looked totally knackered. At the end of the staircase, I was in a forest and running mostly on dirt trails.

finish area (21.1km) [note: clock showing time since start of the marathon]

Every time an opportunity presented itself I would move forward a place. There were rocks and other hazards on the trail path but it was a lot of fun here and while I was still moving slower than I would have liked, I was at least now back to running. This climb was the most frustrating section of the race for me and it took over 17 minutes at snail's pace to cover the 1km part staircase / part trail path of ascending (most of that was spent at a painfully slow pace on the staircase). By the 19 kilometre point the forest trail path was generally starting to head back down. It twisted and turned, was pretty technical, but above all, brilliant fun.

At the bottom of the path, the course returned to downhill tarmac and passed The National Slate Museum, again I opened up my stride and my pace quickened, overtaking plenty of runners who had been reduced to a shuffle. My ankle felt ok and I put in a honest effort over the last kilometre, finally turning onto the field where it all began, giving a thumbs up to my family and then crossing the line.

food / medal and t-shirt collection

The first thing I did after crossing the line was grab a drink and dive into the trays of food that had been laid out in the finishers' area. Crisps, oranges, biscuits - I took quite a lot and kept on eating - I was so hungry. After about 10 minutes of eating and drinking, I finally moved onto the commemorative t-shirt and medal collection point. I went for the extra small t-shirt and it fits really well.

The results were available instantly via the app and I received a notification on my phone. I had crossed the line in a gun time of 3.16.35. Given that I started fairly near the back, my official chip time was faster at 3.15.37. I had finished in 235th position out of 518 participants - still well within the top 50% despite taking it easy.

the hoops conquered the mountain

I was then reunited with my family and my friend Adam who had put in a great race effort and finished around 45 minutes earlier than me. We had a few photos taken and then Adam and his wife esther had to leave to head back to Dartford. We took things at a slower pace and wandered around Llanberis for a while before hitting the road back to our Welsh accommodation.

The only thing we were a little disappointed with was the TDL Event Services app which sounded as if it would give regular updates as I reached certain points of the course - the official race website called it the 'Live Tracker'. The reality was that it just gave a notification that I had started and then another when I had finished, along with my finish time.

the course hill profile

That aside, from my point of view the race seemed to run flawlessly and the course was just spectacular. The fact that it was such a tough course actually made it easier for me to use a run-walk method so that worked out much better than I had imagined. Although not the longest distance I have run, this was the longest amount of time I had ever spent out on a course so it was new ground for me.

If you are looking to enter this race I think you need to plan to take at least 1 hour longer than your usual half-marathon time if you are towards the sharp end (sub 1.30 half-marathoner). If you are further back or not very good a running uphill, it could well take you a hell of a lot longer. For the record, the last runner logged a chip time of 8 hours.

my official race stats

I recorded the whole race using my Garmin and you can view the course GPS file, here: Snowdonia Trail Half-Marathon 2017. The total elevation gain recorded on my Garmin was 1,183 metres and the highest point of the course was recorded as 968 metres. Interestingly, my data reports my 'total moving time' as 3 hours flat (I stopped quite often to take photos). You can also view my Relive video of the course, here - Snowdonia Trail Half-Marathon 2017

Full results: Snowdonia Trail Half-Marathon 2017
Official chip-timed result: 3.15.37
Overall finishing position (gun): 235 / 518 (234th by chip)
Gender position: 186 / 317
Age group position: 29 / 51

Related blog posts from my visit to Wales:
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